SharePoint is fundamentally a business platform, worth more than the sum of its parts. It is not just a piece of software, not just a set of services, not just a collection of tools and accelerators: it is a platform on which your business can socialize, collaborate, and innovate. We track projects, upload our content, automate our business processes, and have conversations about things that are relevant to our business -- all in context to our teams, our projects, and our content. The vast majority of day-to-day SharePoint stories are about us, the business users.
So why are the majority of SharePoint deployments initiated by IT or engineering without the voice of the business users?
If this sounds like your company, and you’re preparing to build out SharePoint (or planning an upgrade or migration from an older version), there are steps you can take to move this project from a purely IT-led initiative to a more business-focused effort:
Build your environment with business solutions in mind.
Never deploy SharePoint without a clear idea of the business solutions you are trying to solve. I often ask audiences the purpose behind their SharePoint deployments. While answers like “to collaborate more” or “to create a single version of the truth” are technically valid, these platitudes can be applied to a wide range of solutions, and don’t help you refine your plans to meet the specifics of your business. Something more detailed might be “to create an automated dashboard for each business unit, pulling real-time data from transactional systems and direct user input.” Being specific about what you want to achieve provides a clearer picture of what needs to go into the broader design, and will help you better estimate your project goals.
Include your end users in the process.
Your end users know their content and business systems better than you, so why would you not include them? Get them involved early and often, have them participate in the testing, and give them visibility into the project requirements and planning. The more involved they are, the more likely they will adopt the resulting platform.
Map out your information architecture.
Nothing is more important to SharePoint than a solid information architecture. Your metadata and taxonomy will make your platform usable, searchable, and functional. Literally map out your site structure, navigation, and all of your custom content types and site templates. Know who owns each part, and refer back to these diagrams frequently -- especially as you scale out your system. Having a clear map will also help you to understand your future governance needs, and where you will need resources to manage SharePoint going forward.
Conduct thorough capacity planning.
You can’t truly conduct your capacity planning until you complete the previous steps, as they can dramatically change your perception of what the system looks like. Assuming you have solid requirements, end user input, and a plan around information architecture, you can then estimate site, list, and content database throttles, and your future growth needs.
Build out a balanced schedule.
Be sure to include time for planning, testing, and post-deployment review (lovingly known as the post-mortem). This will help you to keep the project business-focused, and provide for continuous feedback from stakeholders and end users – which will help with the overall success of the deployment. Overall, it’ best to deploy in steps, dividing and conquering, and building on successes.
Train people on the new platform.
Don’t assume that people understand even the basics of SharePoint. Even if the effort is an upgrade, provide training and tools so that there are no barriers to adoption. If you’ve built your platform around specific business solutions, you’ll want to train people on the new ways in which they’ll accomplish their jobs.
The biggest mistake you can make with SharePoint, whether on prem or online, is to turn it on and walk away. That strategy simply does not work, regardless of your collaboration platform. Take the time to properly plan, and your total cost of ownership will drop dramatically. #planning #businessanalysis
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